Science and LGBT identity

 

Sir, – William Reville seeks to present a recent study of LGBT identity as fair and comprehensive (“Are LGBT people born that way? It’s unclear”, Science, October 19th). In fact it is nothing of the sort. One of the authors, Paul R McHugh, has a long history of anti-LGBT advocacy.

He is on record describing transgender females as “caricatures of women” and gender surgery as “mutilation”. His opinion of gay people is no less antiquated, believing homosexuality to be rooted in “erroneous desire”. It should also be pointed out that this study was published not in a peer-reviewed journal but by an advocacy group committed to advancing socially conservative policy objectives. It is against such a backdrop that these widely criticised findings deserve to be viewed.

Prof Reville also informs us that professional bodies are divided in their response to the study, citing two examples. In fact, one of the supportive organisations he cites, the American College of Pediatricians, is a tiny fringe group that has been officially certified as a hate group by the Southern Law Poverty Center because of its extreme anti-LGBT activism. Meanwhile, the American Academy of Paediatrics, which represents the vast majority of paediatricians in the US, has united with another authoritative body, the American Psychological Association, in rejecting this highly flawed study. – Yours, etc,

ADAM LONG,

Ballina-Killaloe,

Co Tipperary.

Sir, – “There is no compelling biological explanation for sexual orientation”, writes Prof Reville in his article, which is based on a widely discredited “literature review on sexuality and gender” published by the Ethics and Public Policy Center. This conservative think tank is “dedicated to applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical areas of public policy” in its non-peer reviewed journal, The New Atlantis.

A rather different picture is painted in an evaluation of the review by Dr Dean Hamer, a well-known and respected expert on the role of genetics in sexual orientation and human behaviour. The review, he writes, is a “selective and outdated collection of references and arguments aimed at confusing rather than clarifying our understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity”.

In a show of balance, Prof Reville acknowledges that “Professional bodies are divided on this review. For example, the American College of Pediatricians supports the findings but the American Psychological Association does not”. However, Prof Reville does not weigh the legitimacy of both opinions. The American Psychological Association is the largest scientific and professional organization of psychologists in the United States, with around 117,500 members. The American College of Pediatricians is a far more dubious organisation with an unverified number of members, and has been labelled by Frank Rich of the New York Times as a “political organization peddling homophobic junk-science”. – Yours, etc,

Dr MARK McCARRON,

Manhattan,

New York;

Dr ELOISE McINERNEY,

Brighton, England.